Climate Policy

The aim of the Climate Policy Program is to support the transition from a financially extractive, fossil fueled economy to equitable, democratic and local living economies.  Because we understand climate disruption as a consequence of our broken economic system, and as a major factor exacerbating race, class, gender, and other forms of inequality, we look for root causes and promote solutions at the intersection of both the economic and climate crises.

We organize our work around the premise that to solve the climate crisis, we must confront systemic economic, social and racial inequality, both  in the U.S. and worldwide. We provide long-term vision and bold ideas in domestic and international policy spaces, using research, writing and strategic conversations to redefine what is politically possible.

The Climate Policy Program is currently focused primarily on the United States because of the urgent challenges, and opportunities, that have emerged in recent years. The U.S. has the highest per capita carbon emissions of any country, and is now led by an Administration that denies climate change and has begun recklessly reversing progress in reducing carbon emissions at home and internationally. The U.S. has also been at the forefront of “extreme extraction” such as fracking and mountaintop-removal coal mining. At the same time, the U.S. has seen a surge of brave and inspiring climate activism led by affected frontline communities, such as the struggles around the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines.

Both domestically and internationally, we seek to nurture deep relationships with grassroots organizations and networks and to align our efforts with the goals of social, economic and environmental justice movements. The project’s current work, led by Basav Sen focusing on the domestic policy work, and with Associate Fellow Oscar Reyes focusing on the international work, includes:

Promoting effective, just climate solutions at the state and local level. While national level change becomes harder, we work with grassroots groups and movement leaders to envision and define state and local policies that advance a ‘just’ transition to a new economy, and provide research and proposals to break down policy barriers and uplift solutions that reduce inequality while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and promoting community resilience. By sharing stories and models of success, we aim to shift the culture of the climate movement beyond ‘carbon fundamentalism’ to one that embodies systemic change through concrete alternatives.

Increasing awareness and debate about the intersections of climate change and inequality. Climate change is caused by an economic model that values the short-term financial gain of a few over the rights of most of humanity, and especially indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor people. For resistance to the “dig, dump, and burn” economy to be truly effective, it has to confront the root causes that drive this economic model. No amount of tinkering around the edges or technological “fixes” are going to reverse climate change effectively. We aim to amplify the narrative of the necessity for systemic change through research and writing that illuminates the linkages between climate change and systemic racism, anti-immigrant ideology, and economic inequality.

Countering false populist narratives and false solutions. In the United States, we are confronted with a government that uses false promises of renewed growth in fossil fuel jobs to divide and confuse people and divert attention from their true agenda of giving the fossil fuel oligarchy license to profit by poisoning the air, water, and land, and violating the rights of frontline communities. Likewise, both in the U.S. and worldwide, we see dirty and dangerous technologies such as nuclear energy, trash incineration, biofuels, and big dams being promoted as “carbon free” energy solutions, ignoring the very real harm they do to the environment and to the most marginalized people. We work to effectively counter these false populist narratives and false solutions in the public debate around climate change.

Latest Work

The Greenwashing Scam Behind COP27’s Flop

This year’s UN climate conference offered some reason to celebrate. But the growing clout of the “carbon capture” industry is hindering urgent efforts to clamp down on fossil fuels.

Disrupting Debt, Defusing Nukes: Basav Sen talks climate protests with CodePink Radio

CodePink Radio episode featuring Basav Sen discusses climate protests against the International Monetary Fund annual meeting. October 13, 2022.

FACT SHEET: No National Security without Climate Security

How Washington’s climate spending compares to its investments in the military.

The Climate Legacy of the British Empire

As the global media obsessed over the royal succession, one-third of Pakistan, a former British colony, was underwater.

The Troubling Message of Biden’s Trip to Saudi Arabia

The fossil fuel industry’s global links to political violence and repression couldn’t be clearer. Unfortunately, the U.S. is enabling it.

First the Heatwaves, Now the Flooding. Look to South Asia For a Reminder of Why Climate Action is So Urgent.

The extreme weather events afflicting the subcontinent, made more likely by climate change, show the need to wind down oil, gas and coal use as soon as possible, argue Basav Sen and Tejal Mankad from the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition.

The Climate Case for Taxing Wealth

Vast fortunes rely on destroying our planet. Taxing those fortunes to fund climate action could give us a shot at survival.

India and Pakistan Are Baking, and Every Powerful Institution Is to Blame

Indians know they can’t rely on elites to save them from catastrophe. That’s exactly what could make a climate movement there so powerful.

Pushing Back on ‘Soft Climate Denial’

The Biden administration claims to “believe the science” on climate, but its actions need to catch up with its words.

Ukraine War Is a Wake-up Call to Ditch Oil and Gas Forever

More drilling doesn’t add up to lower prices anytime soon—it just locks in more carbon. Here’s what to do instead.

Three Hopeful Stories of Environmental Activism

It’s people vs. fossil fuels, and the people are chalking up some impressive wins.

How the U.S. Transportation System Fuels Inequality

Transportation policies prioritizing private vehicle use leave the poor and people of color behind.

From the Climate Crisis to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Our Militarized Budget Fuels Injustice

Changing our budget priorities is key to repairing these harms.

New Mexico’s Case for Public Ownership of its Clean Energy Infrastructure

Any energy transition that doesn’t guarantee a pathway to public ownership perpetuates inequality and wealth extraction from New Mexicans .

Nebraska Can Be a Leader in Wind Energy. Here’s How.

Nebraska still gets 51% of its electricity from coal. But there’s good news: Nebraska has exceptional potential for wind energy.

Rain and Sunshine and Wind

How an Energy Transition Could Power Nebraska

To Tackle Climate Change, Hold Fossil Fuel Conglomerates Accountable

Movements are using this once-in-a-lifetime political moment to mobilize communities against climate change and corporate greed.

How to Truly ‘Build Back Better’ on Climate

The Build Back Better program isn’t just inadequate on climate—it may be a disaster. Here’s what movements are demanding next.

Biden Made Big Compromises on Climate — and Movements That Backed Him Are Livid

The climate crisis rages on as Biden prioritizes bipartisanship on an infrastructure bill that guts climate action.

Biden Should Reject the Infrastructure Plan Written by Exxon and Invest in Saving the Climate Instead

As disaster after disaster unfolds, any plan that doesn’t tackle the climate crisis with urgency isn’t worth taking seriously.